Improved margins helped Golden State Bancorp, the parent of California Federal Bank, post a first-quarter net income increase of 49%, to $71 million.

Because California Federal bought Glendale Federal Bank in September through a purchase transaction, the net income figure was not adjusted to account for the additional earning assets.

Regardless, the San Francisco-based thrift company beat analysts' per share consensus earnings estimate of 44 cents by 6 cents. Net interest margin at the $56 billion-asset thrift company climbed to 2.37%, from 2.1% in the year-earlier period. The improvement largely was driven by the thrift's ability to book more transaction accounts, analysts said.

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